1, 2. How does Jesus come to be in the wilderness of Judea in the autumn of 29 C.E., and what happens to him there? (See opening picture.)
IT IS early autumn of 29 C.E., and Jesus is in the wilderness of Judea, just north of the Dead Sea. He was led to this place by holy spirit, following his baptism and anointing. Here, amid a barren landscape of rocks and ravines, Jesus has had 40 days for some quiet time to fast, pray, and meditate. Perhaps during this time, Jehovah has communicated with his Son, preparing him for what lies ahead.
2 Now, when Jesus is weakened by hunger, Satan approaches him. What happens next reveals a vital issue that involves all who love pure worship, including you.
“If You Are a Son of God . . .”
3, 4. (a) Satan introduced the first two temptations with what words, and what may he have been trying to get Jesus to doubt? (b) How does Satan use similar tactics today?
3 Read Matthew 4:1-7. Satan introduced the first two temptations with the subtle words, “If you are a son of God.” Did Satan doubt that Jesus is God’s Son? No. That fallen angelic son of God knew full well that Jesus is God’s firstborn Son. (Col. 1:15) Satan no doubt also knew the words Jehovah spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17) Perhaps Satan wanted to get Jesus to doubt whether his Father was trustworthy and truly cared about him. With the first temptation—to turn stones into bread—Satan, in effect, asked: ‘Since you are God’s Son, why does your Father not feed you in this barren wilderness?’ With the second temptation—to jump off the battlement of the temple—Satan, in a sense, asked: ‘Since you are God’s Son, do you really trust your Father to protect you?’
4 Satan uses similar tactics today. (2 Cor. 2:11) The Tempter waits until true worshippers are weakened or discouraged, and then he attacks, often in subtle ways. (2 Cor. 11:14) He tries to deceive us into believing that Jehovah could never love us or approve of us. The Tempter also tries to get us to believe that Jehovah is not trustworthy, that he will not do as he has promised in his Word. But those are vicious lies. (John 8:44) How can we reject them?
5. How did Jesus respond to the first two temptations?
5 Consider how Jesus responded to the first two temptations. He had no doubt about his Father’s love for him, and he put absolute trust in his Father. Without hesitation, Jesus rejected Satan by quoting his Father’s inspired Word. Fittingly, Jesus quoted scriptures that contain the divine name, Jehovah. (Deut. 6:16; 8:3) What better way for God’s Son to show that he trusted in his Father than to use His name—the unique name that stands as a guarantee that Jehovah will fulfill all his promises?a
6, 7. How can we resist Satan’s subtle attacks?
6 We can resist Satan’s subtle attacks by drawing on Jehovah’s Word and by reflecting on the meaning of the divine name. If we apply to ourselves what the Scriptures say about Jehovah’s love and concern for his worshippers, including the downhearted, we can reject the satanic lie that Jehovah could never love us or approve of us. (Ps. 34:18; 1 Pet. 5:8) And if we keep in mind that Jehovah always lives up to the meaning of his name, we will not doubt that the Fulfiller of promises is worthy of our complete trust.—Prov. 3:5, 6.
7 What, though, is Satan’s primary goal? What does he really want from us? The answer became clear when Satan presented Jesus with a third temptation.
“Fall Down and Do an Act of Worship to Me”
8. With the third temptation, how did Satan reveal the real issue?
8 Read Matthew 4:8-11. With the third temptation, Satan abandoned subtlety and revealed what he was after. Satan showed Jesus (likely in a vision) “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”—but without their corruption. He then told Jesus: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.”b Worship—that was the real issue! Satan wanted Jesus to abandon his Father and acknowledge the Tempter as his god. Satan offered Jesus what might seem an easy way out. He implied that Jesus would have all the power and wealth of the nations and would not need to suffer—no crown of thorns, no scourging, and no torture stake. The temptation was real. Jesus did not question Satan’s dominion over worldly governments! (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) Surely Satan would have given anything to turn Jesus away from the pure worship of his Father.
9. (a) What does Satan really want from true worshippers, and how does he try to tempt us? (b) What does our worship involve? (See the box “What Is Worship?”)
9 Today, too, Satan really wants us to give him our worship—either directly or indirectly. As “the god of this system of things,” he is the beneficiary of all the false worship offered up by the religions of Babylon the Great. (2 Cor. 4:4) But not content with billions of false worshippers, he wants to tempt true worshippers to go contrary to God’s will. He tries to lure us to seek wealth and power in his world rather than pursue a Christian course that may involve suffering “for the sake of righteousness.” (1 Pet. 3:14) If we were to give in to the temptation to abandon pure worship and become part of Satan’s world, we would, in effect, be bowing down and doing an act of worship to Satan, making him our god. How can we resist such a temptation?
10. How did Jesus respond to the third temptation, and why?
10 Note how Jesus responded to the third temptation. Showing his undivided loyalty to Jehovah, he immediately dismissed the Tempter, saying: “Go away, Satan!” As he did with the first two temptations, Jesus then quoted a scripture from Deuteronomy that contains the divine name: “It is written: ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’” (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13) Jesus thus rejected the attraction of a prominent but short-lived worldly career and an easy life without suffering. He recognized that his Father alone deserves to be worshipped and that to perform even a single “act of worship” to Satan would signify submission to him. Jesus steadfastly refused to make the wicked Tempter his god. Having been rebuffed, “the Devil left him.”c
11. How can we resist Satan and his temptations?
11 We can resist Satan and the temptations of his wicked world because, like Jesus, we have a choice. Jehovah has given us the precious gift of free will. Hence, no one—not even the powerful, wicked spirit Tempter—can force us to abandon pure worship. When we loyally take our “stand against [Satan], firm in the faith,” we are, in effect, saying: “Go away, Satan!” (1 Pet. 5:9) Remember, Satan left after Jesus firmly rejected him. Likewise, the Bible assures us: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”—Jas. 4:7.
The Enemy of Pure Worship
12. In Eden, how did Satan reveal that he is the enemy of pure worship?
12 With the final temptation, Satan confirmed that he is the original enemy of pure worship. Thousands of years earlier, in the garden of Eden, Satan first revealed his hatred for worship of Jehovah. By seducing Eve who, in turn, persuaded Adam to disobey Jehovah’s command, Satan brought them under his leadership and control. (Read Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9) In reality, he became their god, and they became his worshippers, even though they may not have known the real identity of the one misleading them. Furthermore, by instigating that rebellion in Eden, Satan not only challenged Jehovah’s sovereignty, or right to rule, but also launched an attack on pure worship. How so?
13. How is pure worship involved in the issue of sovereignty?
13 The issue of sovereignty involves pure worship. Only the true Sovereign, the One who “created all things,” is worthy of worship. (Rev. 4:11) When Jehovah created the perfect Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden, He purposed that eventually the entire earth would be filled with perfect humans who would willingly give Him their worship—pure worship from pure hearts. (Gen. 1:28) Satan challenged Jehovah’s sovereignty because he coveted that which rightly belongs only to the Sovereign Lord Jehovah—worship.—Jas. 1:14, 15.
14. Did Satan succeed in his attack on pure worship? Explain.
14 Did Satan succeed in his attack on pure worship? He managed to turn Adam and Eve away from God. Ever since, Satan has waged war against true worship, seeking to turn as many as possible away from Jehovah God. Satan did not let up in his efforts to tempt Jehovah’s worshippers in pre-Christian times. In the first century C.E., he wickedly stirred up an apostasy by means of which the Christian congregation became corrupted, and pure worship eventually seemed lost. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Acts 20:29, 30) Beginning in the second century C.E., worshippers entered a long period of spiritual captivity to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. But Satan has not succeeded in defeating God’s purpose regarding pure worship. Nothing can stop God from fulfilling his purpose. (Isa. 46:10; 55:8-11) His name is involved, and he always lives up to his name. Jehovah is the unfailing Fulfiller of his purpose!
The Champion of Pure Worship
15. What steps did Jehovah take in Eden to address the rebels and to ensure that his purpose would succeed?
15 Jehovah took immediate steps in Eden to deal with the rebels and to ensure that his purpose would be fulfilled. (Read Genesis 3:14-19.) Even while Adam and Eve were still in the garden, Jehovah sentenced the three rebels, doing so in the order in which they had sinned—first Satan, then Eve, and finally Adam. In words directed to Satan, the unseen instigator, Jehovah foretold the coming of an “offspring” who would undo the effects of the rebellion. That promised “offspring” would play a vital role in fulfilling Jehovah’s purpose regarding pure worship.
16. Following the rebellion in Eden, how did Jehovah keep his purpose moving forward?
16 Following the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah kept his purpose moving forward. He made arrangements for imperfect humans to worship him acceptably, as we will see in the next chapter. (Heb. 11:4–12:1) He also inspired a number of Bible writers—including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel—to record thrilling prophecies about the restoration of pure worship. That restoration is a prominent Bible theme. Those prophecies would all be fulfilled by the promised “offspring,” who turned out to be primarily Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:16) Jesus is the Champion of pure worship, as he clearly showed by his reply to the third temptation. Yes, Jesus is the one whom Jehovah chose to fulfill the restoration prophecies. (Rev. 19:10) He would deliver God’s people from spiritual captivity and restore pure worship to its rightful place.
What Will You Do?
17. Why are the Bible’s restoration prophecies close to our heart?
17 It is exciting and faith-strengthening to examine the Bible’s restoration prophecies. Those prophecies are close to our heart because we look forward to the time when all creatures in heaven and on earth will be united in the pure worship of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. Those prophecies also fill us with hope, for they contain some of the most heartwarming assurances found in God’s Word. Who of us is not eager to see the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises—including the resurrection of our dead loved ones, an earth-wide paradise, and endless life in perfect health?—Isa. 33:24; 35:5, 6; Rev. 20:12, 13; 21:3, 4.
18. What will we examine in this publication?
18 In this publication, we will examine the thrilling prophecies found in the Bible book of Ezekiel. Many of those prophecies focus on the restoration of pure worship. We will discuss how Ezekiel’s prophecies relate to other prophecies, how they will be fulfilled through Christ, and how they involve us.—See the box “An Overview of Ezekiel.”
19. What are you resolved to do, and why?
19 Back in the wilderness of Judea in 29 C.E., Satan failed in his attempt to get Jesus to turn his back on pure worship. But what about us? Satan is more determined than ever to draw us away from true worship. (Rev. 12:12, 17) May this publication help us to strengthen our resolve to resist that wicked Tempter. And may we by our words and actions show that we are in heart harmony with the words, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship.” Then we will have the prospect of living to see Jehovah’s glorious purpose fulfilled at last—everyone in heaven and on earth united in giving Jehovah what he so richly deserves, pure worship from pure hearts!
a The name Jehovah is understood by some to mean “He Causes to Become.” It well fits Jehovah’s role both as the Creator and as the Fulfiller of his purposes.
b Regarding Satan’s words, one Bible reference work says: “As in the very first account of testing, failed by Adam and Eve . . . , the question centers on a choice between the will of Satan or the will of God, which involves implicitly the rendering of worship to the one or the other. Satan indeed vaunts himself as god in place of the only God.”
c Luke’s Gospel lists the temptations in a different order, but Matthew’s account is evidently chronological. Consider three reasons why. (1) Matthew introduces the second temptation with the word “then,” suggesting that it was next in sequence. (2) It seems logical that the two subtle temptations—each beginning with the phrase, “If you are a son of God”—would be followed by the overt temptation to break the first commandment. (Ex. 20:2, 3) (3) Jesus’ words “Go away, Satan!” would more naturally have followed the third and final temptation.—Matt. 4:5, 10, 11.